Clever, adorable, playful, cute and photogenic, otters are perhaps one of the most charismatic of mammals. Caught on photos hugging or holding hands they’re simply the cutest aquatic animals! Otters are an essential keystone species critical to how an ecosystem functions. They provide a large-scale effect on the communities in which they live.
Cute and essential but unfortunately at risk! These fuzzy little critters deserve a bit of attention, so here are 40 interesting facts about otters to put them under the spotlight, where they belong!
Otters are part of the Mustelidae family, which is a family of carnivorous mammals that includes skunks, weasels, wolverines, and badgers.
Otters have the densest fur of the animal kingdom.
Otters spend a large amount of time in the water, yet they still have fur.
To ensure that they stay dry they must spend a significant portion of the day grooming themselves, coating their fur in saliva.
This process makes the outer layer waterproof. This is possible because their fur is so dense, with around a million hairs per square inch.
Otters can be found in unpolluted waters all over the world in marshland, freshwater rivers, lakes, oceans, and coastlines.
There are 13 known species of otters, which range in size from 2.9 feet (90 cm) to 5.9 feet (1.8 m) long!
Otters are known to be pretty incredible hunters, living off a diet of mostly seafood.
While river otters mostly live off fish, crayfish, and crabs, sea otters have a more interesting method of sustaining themselves.
Sea otters are known for their remarkable ability to use rocks to smash open shellfish to fill their stomachs.
Why do sea otters always a carry a stone with them? Because otters actually form attachments to certain stones – keeping them in an armpit when not in use – and have been known to retain their favourite ones throughout their life.
The sea otter is the largest member of the weasel family, yet the smallest marine mammal in North America.
90% of all sea otters live on the coast of Alaska.
Most species of otters spend their time on the banks of rivers and other bodies of water when they’re not hunting.
Sea otters though are the complete opposite. They may sometimes come to shore, but they spend the majority of time in the water, hanging around kelp forests.
In a bizarre turn away from their normal diet, there are some otters in the Shetland Islands in Scotland which have been known to hunt rabbits instead of fish.
Otters are usually found in small family groups with the mother and her young offspring.
During mating season, or when there’s an abundance of food you’ll find much larger groups of otters.
No matter the size of the group though, you’ll always find them playing around, wrestling, chasing their tails, and having an utterly great time.
Otters are born with their eyes closed, and as soon as they open they have a lot to learn like swimming and hunting.
The father is usually chased away soon after a litter is born though, and the mother takes care of them until they’re about a year old.
Historically otters have been used by humans to aid in the process of fishing all over the world.
Nowadays this technique is still practiced in Bangladesh, where trained otters are used to chase fish into fishing nets.
It’s quite common for a mother and her pup to hold each other’s hands so that they don’t drift away from each other while they sleep.
Sea otters also hold onto kelp that grows from the floor of the sea for the same purpose.
River otters are much more likely to take another animal’s home instead of building their own. While this usually happens after the previous animal has moved out, they are known to move into beavers dams while they’re still using them!
When otters are born they can either be called pups or kittens.
Female otters can be called sows or bitches, and male otters can be called boars or dogs.
There’s also no single collective noun for them – if there’s a group of otters on the water they are called a raft, but if they’re on land they can be called a bevy, family, romp, or lodge!
Otters, like humans, are mammals. This means that we can’t breathe underwater!
Sea otters can hold their breather underwater for more than 5 minutes, and river otters can hold theirs for more than 8!
Otters have to eat vast amounts of food every day, which takes up a significant portion of their time.
It’s key to their survival to eat such great quantities, especially for sea otters, as they use up so much energy keeping themselves warm.
A lot of species of otters were once at risk of becoming extinct due to their highly sought-after fur.
While the practice of hunting otters is no longer a common practice, they’re still at risk.
Otters survive by hunting, and as such, they live in unpolluted waters.
As the world becomes more and more polluted otter populations have become more and more at risk.
Hunted to the edge of extinction by fur traders in the 18th and 19th centuries, the few remaining sea otters were first protected by the International Fur Seal Treaty in 1911.
Sea otters in the United States received additional protections with the passage of the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act in the 1970s.
Do you have any fun or interesting facts about otters that we’ve missed? Share them here in the comments section below!